After just two weeks of the 2023 NFL season, injuries have already made a noticeable impact on nearly every team in the league.
Obviously, no team is ever able to escape an entire NFL season unscathed, but starting the season with injuries is the last thing a coach/front office wants, especially when it’s their key players that end up on the injury report.
Here are five of the most notable NFL injuries so far this season:
QB Aaron Rodgers, New York Jets
Heading into the 2023 NFL season, Aaron Rodgers was in prime position to lead a promising New York Jets roster to the playoffs and possibly even a Super Bowl if everything worked out perfectly. Unfortunately for Rodgers and the Jets, this dream was crushed just four plays into their season, when Rodgers tore his left Achilles and was carted off the field.
The optimism surrounding the Jets’ 2023 season quickly dissipated for both players and fans. Star receiver Garret Wilson was among the most disappointed by the unfortunate turn of events.
“My heart hurts for Aaron,” Wilson said. “Just seeing him and the emotion that was going into him getting out there… it sucks man.”
Head coach Robert Saleh strongly emphasized that backup Zach Wilson will be the new starter.
“I do want to make it very clear: Zach’s our quarterback,” Saleh emphasized. “We’ve got a lot of faith in Zach. This is Zach’s team and we’re rolling with Zach.”
That said, it is still highly likely that the Jets will acquire a veteran later on in the season, even if they plan to keep Wilson as the starter.
As for the remainder of the Jets’ 2023 season, their chances at winning the AFC East, or even reaching the playoffs, have decreased significantly with the four-time MVP out for the season. Coach Saleh seemed to think otherwise however, after scoffing at those who believe that their playoff chances are ruined.
“I don’t know why people are trying to put an obituary under our team name.”
Clearly, Coach Saleh and the Jets are still optimistic about their chances this season, even though they have to continue on without Aaron Rodgers.
QB Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals
After the Cincinnati Bengals’ staggering success in their previous two seasons, it comes as a shock to most that they have started this season 0-2. Joe Burrow and the Bengals began last season 0-2 as well, but still managed to claw their way into the AFC Championship.
However, this time feels a little different.
Currently, the team’s primary concern is Burrow’s health, since he missed most of training camp due to a strained right calf muscle.
In Week 1, Burrow threw for 82 yards against the Browns, which was a disappointing, career low. His first half in Week 2 against Baltimore wasn’t any better, having just 35 passing yards by halftime. He did manage to temporarily return to his usual form in the second half though, throwing for 187 yards and finding receiver Tee Higgins for two touchdowns.
Following the game, Burrow was seen limping, and said that he “tweaked” his calf injury.
“I’ll give it a couple nights and a couple sleeps,” Burrow said. “We’ll go from there.”
“He’s still sore today,” head coach Zac Taylor added. “He probably did it on one of the last three plays of the game so it’s just sore. We haven’t done anything on the field yet.”
It’s definitely possible for Cincinnati to turn around a slow start once again, however, both of their losses so far were against division opponents, and Joe Burrow’s calf remains a central topic of concern.
When asked about his overall outlook on the Bengals’ season, Coach Taylor cited last year’s turnaround as reason for optimism.
“This is exactly where we were last year, and this team is only going to get better with every game that passes,” Taylor said last Monday. “When you stumble early you have to learn from it. So many seasons in the past we’ve learned from early-season losses that have propelled us in November and December. This will be no different. I’m very confident in that.”
Considering their tight division as well as their poor start, if Joe Burrow’s injury continues to affect his play like it has the last two games, the Cincinnati Bengals could risk not even making it to the playoffs this season at all.
RB Nick Chubb, Cleveland Browns
The Cleveland Browns lost their best offensive player Monday night, when Nick Chubb went down during the second quarter with a gruesome knee injury. It was the same left knee that Chubb had reconstructed after a dislocation with three torn ligaments in 2015 while still in college. Following the game, it was confirmed Chubb was lost for the season.
“Very disappointed for Nick,” Cleveland head coach Kevin Stefanski commented. “He means a lot to this team, means a lot to this organization so he will be missed. But he will bounce back. I have no doubt.”
As for the rest of Cleveland’s backfield, backup Jerome Ford will replace Chubb as the starting running back, with Kareem Hunt returning to the Browns to play a role as well.
After Chubb exited the game in the second quarter, Ford impressed with 16 carries for 106 yards and a receiving touchdown. Even with this performance, it will be a tall task for the combination of Ford and Hunt to be able to replace Chubb’s consistently elite production. However, if the Browns can make progress moving the ball through the air, the tandem should be able to perform as a serviceable backfield duo that keeps Cleveland’s playoff hopes alive.
RB Saquon Barkley, New York Giants
Late in the New York Giants’ Sunday comeback win against the Arizona Cardinals, Saquon Barkley suffered a right ankle injury that took him out for the remainder of the game. Following the injury, Barkley was ruled out of the Giants’ following game Thursday night against the 49ers, with ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting that the two-time pro bowler is expected to miss three weeks.
Head Coach Brian Daboll’s response was that Barkley is a “quick healer” and that there is a good chance that he comes back sooner.
The Giants already faced a difficult Thursday night game against San Francisco when they had Barkley, and now without him their chances of winning looked much slimmer. In the end, New York would lose 30-12 without the former first rounder.
Moving forward, the Giants are likely to employ a running-back-by-committee until Barkley returns, led by Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell and rookie Eric Gray.
Unfortunately for the Giants, it only got worse since they are also missing sensational left tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring), outside linebacker Azeez Ojulari (hamstring), and left guard Ben Bredeson (concussion) for now. All of these negative factors combined spelled doom for the Giants in Santa Clara, and the team is hoping for quick recoveries across the board
Looking at the rest of their season, even once New York gets their players back, they are still in a competitive division, and their schedule doesn’t get much easier.
The New York Giants are going to have to pull off several upsets and miraculous victories in order to reach the playoffs this season with the current state of their roster
RB Austin Ekeler, Los Angeles Chargers
The Los Angeles Chargers’ star running back, Austin Ekeler, was sidelined with an ankle injury late in their home-opening loss against the Miami Dolphins. This is certainly not the start to the season that Ekeler and the Chargers imagined, as Ekeler missed the entirety of L.A.’s Week 2 loss to the Titans.
Ekeler also missed their most recent practice on Wednesday, but believes he is progressing towards a return to action.
“It’s a day-to-day, week-to-week situation,” Ekeler said. “I like the progress that I’ve made so far. Hopefully I’ll be back sooner rather than later.”
Judging from his recent status from practice, as well as his own input, it doesn’t seem likely that Ekeler is in line to suit up against Minnesota on Sunday.
If Ekeler is out, backup Joshua Kelley will be the starter. Kelley only had 39 yards on 13 carries in Week 2. However this was also against a relentless Tennessee run defense. Week 1 looked much better for Kelley, with 16 carries for 91 yards and a touchdown against Miami. There is no doubt that Ekeler will be missed, but Kelley, along with the Chargers’ other talents on the offense, should be able to give L.A. a fighting chance until Ekeler’s return.
Unfortunately, with an 0-2 start to the season, the star running back’s absence isn’t even the Charger’s biggest problem. Their defense has been their main issue so far in both games, coming in at 24th in rushing yards allowed and redzone efficiency, as well as 30th in passing yards and points allowed.
If the Los Angeles Chargers can’t figure out a solution on defense, in a few weeks, there’s a good chance Austin Ekeler will return to a sub-.500 team with diminishing playoff hopes.